Let me play captain obvious for a minute: there are more people in the world than there are businesses.
Why bring this up? Because this basic fact represents the central social media challenge facing B2B marketers. Countless B2B businesses are trying to use social media to market their services to an audience that is often much smaller than that of B2C businesses. Most regular people can’t buy your product or use your service, so why would they follow you?
The key to success is involving your existing customers.
Businesses don’t just want to know what you do, they want to know what your clients think about what you do. Social media has increased transparency, and consequently increased the demand for this kind of client-focused content.
If you’re a B2B business looking to grow your following, there are a number of ways your customers can help. Have a look:
This is what most people think of when they consider how to incorporate clients in their content strategies on social media. Case studies are a proven method of showcasing your product or service while highlighting one of your valued clients.
Case studies can be a great fit for social media since they implicitly draw in the networks of both companies. If you are lucky enough to have a brand like the World Wildlife Federation or Five Guys as a client, you can build a case study, promote it on social media, and have it be relevant to both your follower base and the wider base of your client. This is important for B2B companies since, as mentioned, they often don’t have the same kind of mass appeal of B2C brands, and struggle to attract individual followers on social media.
@hootsuite Looks great! :)
— Five Guys (@Five_Guys) February 17, 2015
Once you’re comfortable in your relationship with a client, ask them if they’d consider doing a case study with you. When putting together this piece of content, always have social media in the back of your mind. Hone in on quotes that would make great Tweets, Facebook posts, or even text to layer onto images. Ask the client for photos and videos, or take your own, to ensure that you have these assets to accompany your social media posts. There might also be stats or figures within the study that would make great visual elements.
When you’re preparing to launch the case study, ensure that you coordinate with your client’s social media team. They’ll likely be eager to share a case study that shows them in a positive light, and a coordinated launch might help blow up the content right after it is released. Ask the client if they would share the study on their networks and even reply to any social media users who comment positively on the content. You would be surprised how appreciative regular social media users will be to simply receive a ‘thank you’ comment from a big brand.
Case studies are also usually evergreen, meaning they’re not tied to any event so date so you can use them on social media indefinitely. This is great for the slow days, and for times when you want to reinforce that customer relationship.
Testimonials are a very important part of any social media strategy, as they represent a very powerful and accessible form of social proof.
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon referring to people’s reliance on the feedback and actions of others to determine what is right and what is wrong in a given situation.It’s use in marketing is about as old as marketing itself.
In a 2013 study, 79% of consumers said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations before making a buying decision. This statement alone should be enough incentive for small businesses and marketers to put more effort into leveraging social proof in their social media marketing.
The rise of social media has enhanced the importance of social proof because feedback from real people is more easily accessible than ever before. People are actively seeking it out more than ever, so you want to have that content to provide. So, much like with case studies, ask your supportive clients if they can provide you with a testimonial that can be shared on social media.
These social media testimonials can take on many forms. They can simply be a shareable quote from a client promoting your company, that you can then use on Twitter or Facebook, or they can be a bit more substantial. Examples of more involved campaigns include asking clients to Tweet or post about the value of your product to their business, and asking them to refer their own clients to your business where appropriate.
Remember: social media testimonials can be used far beyond social networks. Pull out any great client quotes from Twitter or Facebook and embed them in a blog post, add them to your website, or even use them on printed materials.
Content sharing or shout-outs
One of the easiest ways to throw a little love your client’s way is to simply share their content on social media. If you see them post something that may be relevant to your own following, or something they used your services for, simply retweet or re-share it to your own profiles. You give your client a boost in reach while highlighting your relationship with them. Plus, you fill a valuable slot in your content calendar.
On the other side of the fence, if you have a very strong relationship with a client, you may be able to ask them for their support in sharing your content. Often B2B businesses have overlapping relationships, where even if they provide different services they work in similar industries or in similar ways. If your content is relevant to one of your client’s social media following, there’s no harm in asking them to share it. Doing so can greatly expand your network.
Beyond sharing content, actually engaging in back-and-forth dialogue with a client on social media can be an incredibly effective form of content. Brands are having conversations on Twitter with their followers and with each other, and users love it. There’s no reason B2B businesses can’t join in with their clients.
We took this approach on Star Wars Day (May the 4th) this past spring, Tweeting at several of our valued customers in a fun way. Many of them responded in turn, providing us with a source of social media content that our followers responded to.
— DAVIDsTEA (@DAVIDsTEA) May 4, 2015
— San Diego Zoo (@sandiegozoo) May 4, 2015
While it’s great if this engagement happens naturally, consider connecting with a client’s social media team and planning out a conversation in advance. This could be as simple as coming up with some clever banter or a joke you can both benefit from, or as complicated as hosting a Twitter chat to highlight the client and share their insight. Find the formula that works for you.
Ask them for feedback
All of the examples above depend on you having a strong relationship with your clients. So what about the customers who are new, who have only sampled your service, or who you haven’t really built a hardened rapport with? These clients are equally valuable to your social media efforts, because they are a more accurate representation of the prospects you’re trying to attract.
The best way to make use of these clients is to ask them for feedback. If you see a customer post to social media about your service, especially if it’s something negative, reach out to them and ask them for feedback. Where appropriate this can be done publicly, to prove to others who are listening that you’re paying attention and that every client matters.
Don’t be afraid to poll your social media following. Ask them how you’re doing and what you could be doing better. Ask them what kind of content they’re interested in seeing, and then integrate it into your content plans. Once you do, reach out to them and share that content so that they know you really took their comments to heart.
Product releases or announcements provide another way to use clients for feedback. In advance of a release, reach out to a customer on social media and let them know it’s coming, and that you’d love for them to try it. You can even give trusted clients early access, making them feel valued. Then ask these clients for feedback. You can use positive feedback as content to help market the release on social media, and negative feedback to actually improve it.
Learn how to connect with customers like never before at Connect via Hootsuite, our virtual conference. Register for free to learn how to use social media at every stage of the buyer’s journey—from engagement and brand awareness, to driving leads and closing sales.
Connect via Hootsuite takes place October 5, 2016 at 8:30 a.m. PT/11:30 a.m. ET/4:30 p.m. BST